I finished 25 books in 2017. Not bad. I got the number up from last year but I think it's mostly because I read lots of "fun" books. Lots of fantasy. Another factor is that now with 2 children I have less time for things like movies and TV shows, audiobooks and podcasts are what I have time and energy for these days.
Politics: The Dictator's Handbook by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita and Alastair Smith it great. I read it early in the year and the ideas in the book really have stuck with me and I've thought about them a lot.
I don't know if what I learned in the book really "matters" that much at this point in my life, or if it ever will ever lead to some sort of actionable item that I can take up. However it has shifted my perception in ways that make the bad political situations and home, and even more so, abroad in a much less stressful way. I'm much less shocked and aghast when I hear stories of political corruption and other bad behaviors.
I learned about the book from a great YouTube channel CGP Grey, specifically the excellent video "Rules for Rulers". If you find the video interesting you really should read the book, the book is even better.
Fantasy: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson was my most anticipated read of 2017. I've been looking forward to this book for years. I was not disappointed. Sure, it's not a perfect book, but for me it has a lot of entertainment value.
Science Fiction: I read a couple Science Fiction books and I think the one I want to highlight is We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. It's an old book, one of the original "dystopian" novels. It was a strange book, I have to say I'm not sure I got all of it, although I'm pretty sure that's part of the point of the book. It's told from the perspective of a man who doesn't really understand a lot of what's going on around him and his perspective is down right alien to mine.
At least part of my excitement with finishing it is that it means I've finally read all what I'm lead to believe are the 3 foundations of all the more recent dystopian literature, Brave New World, 1984 and We.
I do not usually take much time to reread books. I have recently read that, that may be because I do not read books that are worth rereading. I hope that's not the case. I'd like to think I retain so much that rereading a book does not have as much value for me as others, but I suspect in another decade or 2 a much bigger percentage of what I read will be reading a book for a second or third time.
I reread Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis, at least in part because my wife read it for the first time …
According to what I tracked on Good Reads, I finished 20 books is 2017. I feel OK about that. I wish I had a done a bit more "serious" reading, there was a lot of entertainment in there, but it was all fun (at least most of the time) and even in the fluff there were some interesting ideas.
Politics: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt is one of my favorite books of all time and one of the most important books I've read. So far I've been able to talk at least 3 other people into reading it and they've loved it too.
The book is divided up into 3 parts and each part has enough insights that would make the whole book worth reading.
While I do not agree with everything in the book (doubtless this is by design), the book accomplished its main (very excellent and very important) goal of helping me to better understand people with different opinions on the most important subjects of religion, politics and morality. Even more than that, it gave me a better vocabulary for talking about those differences in constructive ways.
The book opens with the following wonderful quote.
If that does not make you want to read the book, you are either crazy, evil, stupid or some combination of the 3. (That's a joke, read the book and you'll get the joke.)
Science Fiction: Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown. These books are a lot of fun. Technically I think these books are considered YA, but there a bit more sophisticated with some bigger ideas then your average YA book (that I've read).
Brown brings in lots of fun and interesting ideas to the story, at times he relies on your standard SciFi tropes but the first book came out in 2014 and he wrapped the trilogy up in 2016 and he's not that old, so considering how much time he had to work on them I'm prepared to cut him a little slack.
The bad news is I only read 17 books in 2015. However I feel pretty good about that because I read all 10 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, which are all massive. All 10 averaged well over 40 hours a piece. It's kinda scary to think I spent so much time listening to those books. Recording them must have been a massive undertaking.
The Malazan books were good books, an absolutely massive world with lots of interesting stuff going on, however I may have over done it. At the end I felt like I had been put through a lot, given it a lot of my time and the end just didn't quite satisfy as much as I had hopped. Maybe I'll feel differently about it in a few years. Mostly I blame my self. If I had stretched it out a little bit longer, read some more different kinds of books in the gaps (like what would have happened if I read them as they were published), I suspect I would have enjoyed the experience a lot more and would be raving about how good they were right now.
There are more books in the same "world", I'm sure I'll read those sooner or later.
Anyway, I spent too much time with those books not to mention them, now for the 'best books' which I happened to read in 2015.
History: The Last Battle - The Classic History of the Battle for Berlin by Cornelius Ryan. This is laid out like a novel and it reads like one. The most "page turn-y" history book I have ever read. Plus I was in Berlin for a few days this summer and that added a lot of context for the book that made it all the more interesting to read.
Theology: Celebration of Discipline - The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. A classic I had never read before but I imagine I will read again some day. The book was a nice combination of encouraging and challenging. It's given me a lot to think about, it's already changed my perspective and it hopefully turns into some substantiative changes in my life.
Politics: The Three Languages of Politics by Arnold Kling. I bought this book a while ago after hearing a great interview with the author on EconTalk. Calling it a "book" is a little generous, maybe more of a pamphlet. It's great though, and serves as a great introduction to it's subject. If you have been bothered by un-constructive and uncivil political discourse you should read this book. You can read in a single sitting and it will give you valuable insights into how and why so many political discussions feel like people are just talking past each other. At the very least I'd recommend listening to the interview on EconTalk.
Autobiography: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - A Memoir of Life in Death by Jean-Dominique Bauby. The best book I've ever read that …
The number of titles of books I read this year seems a little light, 30 books in 2013, only 18 in 2014. Looking over the list though, I feel a little better about my reading last year, there were some big books on the list.
Non-Fiction Politics and Theology (always a dangerous combination): A Farewell to Mars - An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace by Brian Zahnd. One could criticize it for being cavalier at times, but it's covering a lot of ground in small book. It was much more then just an overview for me though, there were several new ideas, new metaphors and even some history that was new to me.
Fiction: The Storm Light Archives (series) by Brandon Sanderson. Only the first two books are out, I read them both, back to back, then pretty much when right into another series Sanderson finished called Mistborn. One of the longest audio book benders of 33 year life. I can not say these books changed my life but they were a lot of fun to read.
I'm looking forward to another year of reading.
I think I'm going to start writing an annual blog post about my favorite books every year. Here's this years run down. In case you are wondering I don't actually have a memory capable of remembering all the books I've read this year and what I thought of them, but I've been logging my reading at GoodReads.com and that makes it easy.
Here they are in no particular order. I'm probably going to try to stick to one book per category.
Non-Fiction Politics: The Law by Frédéric Bastiat. One of the only real books I actually read this year (I "read" most books by listening to them). It's short. It's funny, and it's full of thoughtful insights.
Non-Fiction Theology: Knowing God by J.I. Packer. A classic I had never read before. Lots of good stuff, I'm sure I'll read it again.
Science Fiction: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. One of the best science fiction writers knocking another one out of the park, but it's the 3rd in a series and you should read the other two books first.
There were lots of other good book I read this year, checkout my Good Reads profile if you want to see what I've been reading. If I have any regrets I wish I would have made time to finish a computer book or two and maybe read a bit more history. I also could have done with a little less science fiction, but it was a good year for me and books.